At just fourteen minutes long, Rema delivers a brief project that restates him as a skilled artiste, and as a musician soon to take up a legendary status in the music industry…
By Emmanuel Daraloye
Divine Ikubor, popularly known as Rema, has become the unofficial leader of his generation. With thirty-three million monthly listeners on Spotify, a song that has been streamed more than a billion times, and a whopping six million followers on Instagram, he is currently living the dream of every Afrobeats artiste. But the success and accolades never came cheap, it is a result of a culminating five years of dedication and hard work; singles and project releases, collaborations, and performances, among others. And weeks after his smashing hit track “Calm Down” remix with Selena Gomez reached a billion streams on Spotify, Rema announced the release of his latest extended play Ravage. This EP comes after his critically acclaimed 2022 album, Raves & Roses.
The artiste has indeed come a long way from singing in church in Benin City in southern Nigeria to forming a singing group, Alpha P, and making all the rave in its neighbouring cities, before becoming discovered by D’Prince in 2018, like a rare gem in the rough. It only took months before he was unveiled as a Mavin Records/Jonzin World signed artiste via the Rema EP in 2019 — an EP which birthed his smash hit, “Dumebi”. On Ravage, Rema’s hunger for success is still apparent, with the popstar calling listeners to the dancefloor, and sending out a message or two to his detractors.
The London and Blaisebeatz produced “Trouble” kicks off Ravage, a response to words from naysayers. The song begins with his usual signature, “another banger”, with heavy drums and strings that shine through as the vocals come up. His voice is both nasal and seductive, a beautiful mix of contradictions. In the first verse, Rema sings about the criticism and pressure that he constantly grapples with, and his tenacity in his pursuit of wealth. There is a violin instrumentation that flows slowly through the track, adding beauty and layers to the song’s composition. The artiste enters his element in the second verse, basking about his achievements and taking listeners through his “origin story” and the challenges he has had to hurdle to get to his present position.
“DND,” which means Do Not Disturb, is a track that puts off perceived intruders. The first line, “Motu ti de, lati dagboru”, (I am back to shake the industry) attests to this, with Rema appearing aggressive and confrontational as the song progresses. He weaves his lyrics to address the derision from his naysayers, while he basks in his recent accomplishments. It is a clear message brilliantly delivered by Rema and the producer P-Prime. The singer tries to portray an image of a swashbuckling gangster, but his vocals and personality betray him, and the depiction doesn’t quite match up.
A skittering piano takes the lead as the intro to “Smooth Criminal”. The track, fueled by a blistering log drum and sunny shakers, embodies the Amapiano sound and elements as Rema sings about his exploit as a singer — the cash power of his crew. While this can sometimes come off as arrogance, Rema capitalises on the success of the one-liner off “Charm”: I get money past your papa.
On “Don’t Leave”, Rema explores a cadence comparable to that of Wizkid in the opening fifty seconds. In recent times, he has been set side by side with Wizkid, with claims that the artiste renders his songs using Wizkid’s style and fluidity. And with this song, one easily notices such similarities. “Don’t Leave” is a chaotic number which leaves a noisy feeling after the end of the three-minute play.
A clattering of drums alongside snares and shakers formed the large chunk of the production on “Red Potion”, a track that takes copious inspiration from “Charm”. Rema’s flow here sometimes reminds one of Amaarae, with the nasal, cooing, and seductive lyrics and vocal sounds. “Red Potion” is heavily laid on percussion, with the outro filled with ad-libs and backup vocals that elevate the song.
At just fourteen minutes long, Rema delivers a brief project that restates him as a skilled artiste, and as a musician soon to take up a legendary status in the music industry. He is arguably the heir to the legacy of the “big three”; Wizkid, Burna Boy, and Davido, who are instating the place of Afrobeats on global fronts.
Rema’s message is loud and clear, he is a music star who is here to stay. The success of “Calm Down” has not come without a cost, and Ravage is a beautiful attempt at solidifying his burgeoning legacy. While this project does not rank as one of the best released this year, it is still a commendable effort from the artiste.
Lyricism – 2
Tracklisting – 1.2
Sound Engineering – 1.2
Vocalisation – 1.3
Listening Experience – 1.7
Rating – 7.4/10
Listed twice by “Black Pride Magazine” as one of the top 5 Music Journalists in Nigeria, Emmanuel Daraloye has over 600 album reviews in his archive.